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Marine / ‘Safety of fishermen paramount’ – Marine Scotland responds to joint SFA/Greens letter

Local fishermen regularly land gill nets discarded by foreign fishing vessels.

THE SCOTTISH Government says it encourages anyone with knowledge of suspicious activities by vessels operating in Scottish waters to reporting this to the relevant authorities including Marine Scotland.

A government spokesperson added that the safety of fishermen as well as the protection of the marine environment was paramount.

The government response to a joint call by Shetland Fishermen’s Association and the local branch of the Scottish Greens to rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon to ban destructive gill netting in Scottish waters does not acknowledge receipt of the letter and only refers to gill netting when pointing towards a consultation on the government’s “future catching policy” that closed yesterday.

Fishermen join forces with Greens in fight against damaging gill netting

In what can be described as an unlikely co-operation, both organisations described gill netting by EU-registered fishing vessels as “highly destructive both to the economy of our coastal communities and tour marine ecology”.

They also mentioned once again concern over unregulated landings which have the potential of “raising suspicions of illegal fishing.”

“We are concerned that many foreign fishing boats bypass the well-regulated local fish markets. Foreign boats frequently load their catch straight from the harbourside into the back of refrigerated lorries heading straight to market on the continent – bringing little benefit to the local economy,” they wrote to the cabinet secretary.

A spokesperson for government agency Marine Scotland said: “We take protection of the marine environment seriously and are clear that any form of dumping and other illegal activities is completely unacceptable.

“The regulations covering the disposal of litter and fishing gear at sea are enforced by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

“Marine Scotland Directorate officers proactively report incidents through our intelligence system to the MCA and we periodically remind vessels of their obligations under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships Regulations (MARPOL).

“The safety of our fishers is of paramount importance and any allegations of behaviour that risks the lives of fishers and the safety of vessels are very serious.

“Any such incidents are a matter for the MCA. Marine Scotland, including our Marine Protection Vessels and Coastal Officers, work closely with the MCA when it becomes aware of any safety related incident.

“Landings into all Scottish ports, including foreign vessels consigning catches back to the continent, are inspected and monitored on a risk based basis. We would encourage anyone with intelligence relating to suspicious activities by vessels to report this to us on our website.”

Anyone with intelligence relating to suspicious activities by vessels in Scotland’s marine environment can reporting this online here.